What Parents Need to Know About Having an Expander for Braces
September 5, 2023

As modern orthodontic practices get better and better, more people are getting interested in enjoying straight teeth. In 2023, the United States alone now has over 15,000 orthodontic practices throughout the country.

Most people know what braces are, but getting an expander for braces can come as a surprise. Expanders can also seem like a mystery the first time you have to work with them.

The good news is that using an expander and knowing how to take care of one is often simpler than many people think. In this article, you will learn all about expanders for braces and how to get the best results from using them.

Read on to learn all about the most vital things parents need to understand before getting an expander for their kid’s braces.

What Are Palate Expanders?

If you or your child get braces, there is a chance that they will get a palate expander at some time as well. Palate expanders sit on the roof of the mouth. They push on the teeth from either side to help create a broader palate.

Some palate expanders are fixed, meaning that they stay in the mouth at all times. They are sometimes a better choice for younger children who might take their expanders out too often or lose them. On the other hand, many people receive removable expanders that are easy to put in and take out of the mouth.

Why Aren’t Braces Enough for Jaw Growth?

In theory, braces are supposed to move your teeth into proper alignment. However, even modern braces designs are mostly effective at applying forces that pull the teeth toward each other. Although this is effective for creating an even line of teeth, it may not be effective for helping create a wider horseshoe shape out of the teeth.

If someone’s teeth are too close together, that means that they may need an expander along with their braces. Braces and expanders tend to work together. The expansion of the expander may not be able to align the teeth precisely, but the braces can take care of that.

Orthodontic Care Tips for Expanders

So how do you use an expander? In most cases, your orthodontist will demonstrate this.

However, the basic process consists of using a key tool to turn a mechanism in the expander. In many cases, it is easier to have someone else do this for you.

If you are turning your expander for your child, you might have them tilt their head back and open their mouth. If you can’t see clearly inside, you may need a light to help you.

Then, all you have to do is insert the key that comes with the expander into a specific hole in it. Pushing the key in that hole will cause the expander to slightly widen. That will then apply mild pressure to the palate of your child.

As the body adjusts to this pressure, the palate will become slightly wider. As you repeat this process over many days, your child will enjoy a smoothly expanding palate.

Some people wonder if they can get faster results by turning the key in their expanders more than once each day. However, the body can only adjust to so much pressure at a time. Instead of speeding up results, you might slow them down if you try to turn an expander key too much.

That is also why there is no point in trying to make up for lost time if you forget to activate an expander on a given day. Even if you miss a daily turn, you should only turn your expander once the following day. Missing a day simply means that it will take one day longer for the expansion process to finish.

Who Needs an Expander?

Many people can enjoy straight teeth without getting an expander. So what kind of situations make expanders necessary?

Crossbites are often the result of a palate that is too narrow. If you or your child has a crossbite, braces may not be enough to correct it. In other cases, enough teeth crowding can make it necessary to use an expander.

If you try to straighten crowded teeth with braces alone, they might end up applying too much pressure to each other and wearing away at the enamel. That can increase the chance of developing cavities.

You might also need an expander if your child has any trouble breathing. Widening the palate can often create more space in the airway, making proper nasal breathing easier.

Is Palatal Expansion Painful?

The idea of widening your palate might sound intimidating at first. Some people wonder if the process is painful. The good news is that expanders work extremely slowly to avoid pain during the expansion process.

Although it is common for people to experience soreness and pressure after they turn their expanders, they generally do not experience pain. However, adjusting to an expander can require a few days. Your child might find it awkward to eat or speak until they get used to their expander.

Caring for an Expander

Caring for an expander is almost as important as caring for the teeth themselves. Expanders get exposed to plaque and food debris, so they need to be washed after meals and before bed.

The good news is that cleaning an expander is as simple as brushing it in the sink. However, your child may also need to avoid hard or sticky foods to prevent damage to their expander.

Understand the Nuances of Having an Expander for Braces

When your child first gets an expander for braces, it is common to feel unsure about what to do with it. We hope that this article has helped you gain confidence about using and caring for an expander as well as possible. The more you understand about the orthodontic process, the smoother it is likely to proceed for you or your children.

To find out how you can find the best orthodontic care for you, contact us at Carolina Braces at any time!